Apple Mail Error 471

A couple of weeks ago I finally got around to actually upgrading to Leopard on my laptop. One of the things I was interested in trying out once I got upgraded was Apple Mail’s new Note feature.

I fired up Mail and clicked on the note icon and…nothing happened. Hmmm, check the Menu bar. Go to File → New Note…nothing again. Well okay, I thought to myself, somethings wrong here. Maybe I should do a Google search. Hmmm, what to search. Mail Notes Error. Umm, okay too generic, I’ll try being more specific. Apple Mail error opening new note. Grrr. Try several other search strings. #@$%*! 1

Okay, so it’s become clear to me at this point that Googling the problem is just not going to work. I decide to fire up Console to see if there are any enlightening error codes. Console does at least offer me something, in the form of “Mail[471] font-family cannot be nil”.

Mail Error-font-family cannot be nil

Hmm, that looks like gibberish to me. I do some more unsuccessful Google searches. Finally, I decide to attempt to decode that error again. That error means that somewhere a font family is not selected or unavailable. We know it’s happening when a new note is being created. I opened up Mail again and started pursuing the preferences. Low and behold, under the tab for Fonts & Colors, I found this:

Mail Preference Pane for Fonts and Colors

The field for the Note font is completely blank. I selected a font and attempted to open a new note. Success!

As it turned out, this happened to be a very simple solution for a very silly problem. That solution took me over an hour to figure out. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to figure out why that field was blank in the first place. I wonder how many other people have had this exact same problem and just given up on trying to figure it out.

  1. Side Rant: What exactly was Apple thinking when they named their email client “Mail.” Could they have thought of a worse name? It is impossible to search for information about a problem with the program because “mail” could refer to so many things. It’s kind of like buying a computer, that has the model name of “computer.” Then say said computer one day won’t start up. You find another computer and start doing a search for the problem. Your query string is going to look something like this: [brand name] computer won’t start. Completely useless.